The Full Wiki

Art of the United Kingdom: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Art of the United Kingdom

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up by J. M. W. Turner, 1838, celebrates a ship of the Royal Navy. The Turner Prize is named after the painter J. M. W. Turner, and is an annual prize presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50, staged at Tate Britain.

Art of the United Kingdom, or British art, refers to all forms of art associated with the United Kingdom since its creation in 1707. It has historically been influenced by, and participated within macro-Western art history.[1] The experience of military, political and economic power from the rise of the British Empire, led to a very specific drive in artistic technique, taste and sensibility in the United Kingdom.[2] British people used their art "to illustrate their knowledge and command of the natural world", whilst the permanent settlers in British North America, Australasia, and South Africa "embarked upon a search for distinctive artistic expression appropriate to their sense of national identity".[2] The empire has been "at the centre, rather than in the margins, of the history of British art", and imperial British visual arts have been fundamental to the construction, celebration and expression of Britishness.[3]

British attitudes to modern art were "polarized" at the end of the 19th century.[4] Modernist movements were both cherished and vilified by artists and critics; Impressionism was initially regarded by "many conservative critics" as a "subversive foreign influence", but became "fully assimilated" into British art during the early-20th century.[4] Representational art was described by Herbert Read during the interwar period as "necessarily... revolutionary", and was studied and produced to such an extent that by the 1950s, Classicism was effectively void in British visual art.[4] Post-modern, contemporary British art, particularly that of the Young British Artists, has been pre-occupied with postcolonialism, and "characterised by a fundamental concern with material culture ... perceived as a post-imperial cultural anxiety".[5]



Stonehenge from the heelstone in 2007 with the 'Slaughter Stone' in the foreground

Much of the art of the United Kingdom predates the creation of United Kingdom in 1707 with the oldest art dated to the Neolithic period, including Stonehenge c. 2600 BC which predates and predicts large Modernist stone sculpture and earthworks by thousands of years. From around 2150 BC, the Beaker people learned how to make bronze, and use both tin and gold. They became skilled in metal refining and works of art placed in graves or sacrificial pits have survived. In the Iron Age, a new art style arrived as Celtic culture spread across the British isles. Though metalwork, especially gold ornaments, was still important, stone and most likely wood was also used. This style continued into the Roman period, beginning in the 1st century BC, and would find a renaissance in the Medieval period. It also survived in the Celtic areas not occupied by the Romans, largely corresponding to the present-day Wales and Scotland. The arrival of the Romans brought the Classical style of which many monuments have survived, especially funerary monuments, statues and busts. They also brought glasswork and mosaics. In the 4th century, a new element was introduced as the first Christian art was made in Britain. Several mosaics with Christian symbols and pictures have been preserved. The style of Romano-British art follows that of the continent, there are some local specialities, to some extent influenced by Celtic art.

After Roman rule, the Anglo-Saxons brought Germanic traditions, seen in the metalwork of Sutton Hoo. The carved stone high crosses were a distinctive Insular form, though related to the Pictish stones of Scotland. Anglo-Saxon art developed a very sophisticated variety of contemporary Continental styles, seen especially in metalwork and illuminated manuscripts such as the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold. After a pause of some decades, manuscript painting in England soon became again the equal of any in Europe, in Romanesque works like the Winchester Bible and the St Albans Psalter, and then early Gothic ones like the Tickhill Psalter. English illumination fell away in the final phase of the Gothic period as elite patrons began instead to commission works from Paris or Flanders. Anglo-Saxon sculpting was outstanding for its time in the 11th century, as proved by pre-Norman ivory carvings.[6] The spreading of Christianity from the beginning of the 5th century made little change in art style at first, but new elements were gradually added, such as Celtic high crosses and scenes from the Bible, depicted framed with the ancient patterns. Some ancient symbols were redefined, such as the many Celtic symbols that can easily be interpreted as referring to the Holy Trinity. One new form of art that was introduced was mural paintings since Christianity provided both monks who were familiar with the techniques and stone churches with white-chalked walls suitable for murals. As the artists were often foreign monks, or lay artists trained on the continent, the style is very close to that of continental art. Another art form introduced through the church was stained glass, which was also adopted for secular uses.

Very few examples of top-quality English painting on walls or panel have survived from before 1500. Some fragments have survived from paintings in Westminster Abbey, which also has a large portrait of Richard II An example of this period is The Wilton Diptych.

In 1536, the English Reformation and the resulting seizure of property in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, resulted in the destruction of much of England and Wales' art tradition, which had previously been under the patronage of the church. A Scottish reformation had similar effect on art in Scotland. Another result was isolation from the trends of Catholic Europe, including many of those at the centre of the Renaissance. Also starting in the early 16th century was the English Renaissance, parallel to the Italian Renaissance, though it did not develop in exactly the same way. Though relatively little concerned with the visual arts, except for Tudor and Elizabethan architecture, it had a far greater impact in music and literature. Artists of the Tudor Court, mostly from the continent continued to find work in England, mainly on portraits, and brought the new styles with them, especially the Flemish and Italian Renaissance styles. Religious art had virtually ceased, and portraiture of the elite had begun to spread to the richer middle classes, at least in the distinctively English form of the portrait miniature. Nicholas Hilliard charged only £3 for a miniature, certainly affordable by many merchants.

Art of the United Kingdom

Baroque and the 18th century

From the 18th century, the English school of painting is mainly notable for portraits and landscapes, and indeed portraits in landscapes. Among the artists of this period are Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), George Stubbs (1724–1806), and Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788). William Hogarth painted far more down to earth portraits and satires, and was the first great English printmaker.

John Constable, The Hay Wain, 1821

Late 18th century to early 19th century

The late 18th century and the early 19th century was perhaps the most radical period in British art, producing William Blake (1757–1827), John Constable (1776–1837) and William Turner (1775–1851), the later two being arguably the most internationally influential of all British artists. Turner was noted for his wild, almost abstract, landscapes that explored the effects of light and was a profound influence on the later impressionists. Constable too, was a landscape painter who was also to have an influence on the impressionists, but is more accessible than

1840 to late 20th century

John Everett Millais.Isabella, 1849.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) achieved considerable influence after its foundation in 1848 with paintings that concentrated on religious, literary, and genre subjects executed in a colorful and minutely detailed style. PRB artists included John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and subsequently Edward Burne-Jones. Also associated was designer William Morris, who advocated a return to hand-craftsmanship in the decorative arts over industrial manufacture. His efforts to make beautiful objects affordable (or even free) for everyone led to his wallpaper and tile designs defining the Victorian aesthetic and instigating the Arts and Crafts movement.

Alfred Sisley, who was French by birth but had British nationality, painted in France as one of the Impressionists. Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group developed an English style of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism with a strong strand of social documentary. The key homegrown modern art movement at the beginning of the 20th century was Vorticism, whose members included Sir Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis, and David Bomberg. The reaction to the horrors of the First World War prompted a return to pastoral subjects as represented by Paul Nash. Stanley Spencer painted mystical works, as well as landscapes. Surrealism was briefly popular in the 1930s, influencing Roland Penrose and Henry Moore.

Moore emerged after World War II as Britain's leading artist, promoted alongside Victor Pasmore and Barbara Hepworth by the Festival of Britain. Abstract art became prominent during the 1950s with Ben Nicholson, Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron, who were part of the St Ives school in Cornwall. Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, John Tunnard and Francis Bacon ("The London School") were contemporary figurative artists. As a reaction to abstract expressionism, pop art emerged originally in England at the end of the 1950s with the exhibition This Is Tomorrow. David Hockney, Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton were part of the sixties art scene.

Art and Language were a conceptual art group who published a journal. Michael Craig Martin created a conceptual work, An Oak Tree in 1973.

Contemporary art

The Young British Artists (YBA) movement, which includes Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, rose to prominence during the 1990s with the backing of Charles Saatchi and achieved international recognition with their version of conceptual art, which often featured installations, notably Hirst's vitrine containing a preserved shark. The Tate gallery and its Turner Prize, as well as the Royal Academy, also gave exposure to them. In 1999, the Stuckists figurative painting group was founded in opposition to the YBAs.[7] The Federation of British Artists hosts shows of traditional figurative painting.[8] Jack Vettriano and Beryl Cook have widespread popularity, but not official acceptance.[9][10][11] Banksy made a reputation with street graffiti and is now a highly-valued mainstream artist.[12]


Notable arts institutions include the Royal College of Art, Royal Society of Arts, Slade School of Art, Royal Academy, and the Tate gallery.

See also


  1. ^ Else et al 2007, p. 78.
  2. ^ a b McKenzie, John, Art and Empire,,, retrieved 2008-10-24 
  3. ^ Barringer et al, p. 3.
  4. ^ a b c Whittle et al 2005, p. 5.
  5. ^ Barringer et al, p. 17.
  6. ^ BBC History
  7. ^ Cassidy, Sarah. "Stuckists, scourge of BritArt, put on their own exhibition", The Independent, 23 August 2006. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  8. ^ "Major new £25,000 Threadneedle art prize announced to rival Turner Prize", 24 Hour Museum, 5 September 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  9. ^ Smith, David. "He's our favourite artist. So why do the galleries hate him so much?", The Observer, 11 January 2004. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  10. ^ Campbell, Duncan. "Beryl Cook, artist who painted with a smile, dies", The Guardian, 29 May 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  11. ^ "Painter Beryl Cook dies aged 81" BBC, 28 May 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  12. ^ Reynolds, Nigel. "Banksy's graffiti art sells for half a million", The Daily Telegraph, 25 October 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  • Barringer, T. J.; Quilley, Geoff; Fordham, Douglas (2007), Art and the British Empire, Manchester University Press, ISBN 9780719073922 
  • Else, David; Attwooll, Jolyon; Beech, Charlotte; Clapton, Laetitia; Berry, Oliver; Davenport, Fionn (2007), Great Britain (7th ed.), Lonely Planet, ISBN 9781741045659 
  • Whittle et al (2005), Creative Tension: British Art 1900-1950, Paul Holberton Publishing, ISBN 978-1903470282 

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address